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‘We’re talking about nuclear weapons’, Kyiv mayor warns as war anniversary approaches

By Spencer Van Dyk, CTV News Parliamentary Bureau Writer, Producer

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    Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — As the war in Ukraine nears the one-year mark, the mayor of Kyiv is highlighting what’s at stake, hoping to remind people the threat of nuclear war looms, and his country is fighting to defend not just itself, but every country that shares its democratic values.

Vitali Klitschko — in an exclusive Canadian interview airing Sunday with CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos — stressed that it is important for people to remember the war in Ukraine impacts everyone, not just Ukrainians, adding that it would be a “huge mistake” for people outside of Ukraine to think the war doesn’t affect them.

“Please don’t forget, we’re talking about nuclear weapons,” he said. “An explosion could touch everyone on our planet, and that is why we have to do everything we can to stop this war.”

Feb. 24 marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, which at the time Russian President Vladirmir Putin called a “special military operation.” Since then, there have been 7,199 civilian deaths and more than eight million refugees scattered across Europe, according to the United Nations.

While Ukraine prepares for a likely spring offensive from Russia — and after starting to receive the long-time ask of battle tanks from allied countries — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is asking for fighter jets.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly paid a surprise visit to Ukraine earlier this month to meet with Zelenskyy, Klitschko, and other top officials.

Zelenskyy briefed Joly about Ukraine’s latest most pressing defence needs, and discussed next steps in his Peace Formula, according to a release from the president’s office.

Joly later attended an international security conference in Munich, where Zelenskyy urged Western allies to send military support to Ukraine quickly, saying “it’s speed that life depends on.”

Klitschko told Kapelos the fighter jets Ukraine is now asking for would be “very effective” against the missiles Russia is using.

“We need the help,” he said, adding the amount of support Ukraine receives will determine how quickly it can end the war.

“We’re talking about defensive weapons [so] we [can] defend our homeland,” he also said. “Ukraine always was peaceful country, we’re peaceful people, but we don’t have right now a choice, we have to fight and defend our families.”

When asked however about the concern of some governments that sending more help to Ukraine — for example in the form of fighter jets — could spur a Russian escalation, Klitschko said his country is fighting to defend its democracy and that of other former Soviet Union countries.

“We defend right now not just Ukraine,” he said.

With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha

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